By Fort Sill TribuneDecember 6, 2018
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Dec. 6, 2018) -- Ordnance Training Detachment -- Sill commemorated National Native American Heritage Month by inviting family of its namesake facility, the 1st Sgt. Pascal Cleatus Poolaw Hall, to speak at a remembrance ceremony honoring Pascal, his Kiowa Tribe, and all Native Americans, Nov. 29, at the Hall.
Five relatives and the chairman of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma spoke to a crowd of leaders from the 59th Ordnance Brigade, 428th Field Artillery Brigade, 73rd Ordnance Battalion, OTD-S staff, and Soldiers, families, and friends.
Master of ceremonies Sgt. 1st Class Reginald Bush, OTD-S operations noncommissioned officer in charge, gave a biographical presentation on 1st Sgt. Poolaw, or Cleatus as he is known to his family.
Cleatus was born Jan. 22, 1922, to Ralph Emerson Poolaw Sr. and Minnie Bointy Poolaw. He was the grandson of Kiowa George Poolaw, a member of the all-Indian Cavalry Troop L at Fort Sill, from 1839 to 1895. Cleatus was a combat veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam distinguishing himself with valor in all three wars.
During WWII, Cleatus served in the European Theater at the same time his father and two brothers were serving. He received a battlefield commission during the Korea War on Oct. 17, 1953.
After retiring from the Army in 1962, he rejoined the Army in 1967. He reverted to his enlisted rank, and then fought in Vietnam. He died in battle Nov. 7, 1967. He had 25 years of service in the Army, and earned 42 medals and ribbons, which made him the most highly decorated Native American Soldier. This included four Silver Stars, which is the third-highest medal of personal valor in combat, and three Purple Heart medals -- one from each war.
Speaker Ricky Poolaw explained he was the youngest brother of Cleatus and there was a 30 year difference. After Cleatus' mother, Minnie died, Cleatus' father remarried to Ella and had several more children, including Ricky, who was born in 1953. Ricky recalled how Cleatus who was stationed at Fort Sill in the early 1960s, would visit his house in Anadarko.
"We would pick him up at the barracks; he would bring his family over for Thanksgiving," said Ricky, who made the trip from Bernalillo, N.M. "He was just a real funny guy, but of course when it came to do his job in the military, he was a very serious individual."
"He had a booming voice," Ricky recalled. "Some of his Soldiers said he was a master psychologist because with little effort he could get things done in his unit because of the way he handled himself, and how he spoke to his Soldiers. They respected him a great deal."
Speaker Phyllis Bohanan, niece of Cleatus, recalled how her father, Jack and Cleatus were put in Riverside Indian School after their mother Minnie died. Jack was 8, and Cleatus was 12.
"The brothers were very competitive, learning how to be men (at Riverside)," she said. "They all went out and joined the military right out of high school."
She noted her father became a Marine who fought at Okinawa, Saipan, and Tinian.
"My dad always looked up to his older brother Cleatus," she said. "Whenever he got phone calls from him there was always laughter, and joy in his heart."
She said the day they received the news that Cleatus had been killed in Vietnam, was the first time she ever saw her father cry.
Bohanan thanked the Soldiers for their service, and for honoring Native Americans.
"I know if my dad were here today, that he would have great joy in his heart," she said.
Capt. Ryan Conway, OTD-S commander, gave the closing remarks, thanking the family for participating in the remembrance.
"The Army family is a small, but revered group," Conway said. "We as Soldiers should always take time to give remembrance to those who have served honorably. First Sgt. Poolaw is a shining example of what it means to be honorable, respected, and loved even years after his passing. He was a great man, and a great Soldier."